Leicestershire prevail in New Road thriller
The Foxes win in the penultimate over, despite a gritty half-century from Steven Croft
Captain Colin Ackermann led the charge as Lancashire dropped to a seven-wicket defeat against Leicestershire in the opening Bob Willis Trophy fixture at Blackfinch New Road.
It was hard to take for a Lancashire side badly hit by England call-ups and injuries, and for whom three bowlers were making a debut, and in particular Steven Croft, who earlier in the day led a determined defensive effort, finishing unbeaten on 52 after facing 185 balls before Lancashire were bowled out for 236 in their second innings.
Ackermann finished on 73 not out off just 41 balls as the Foxes chased down their 150 runs off 17 overs target, hitting ten fours and a six in an extraordinary display of shot-making on a slow pitch.
Harry Dearden played an important role, hitting consecutive sixes over long-on before reverse-sweeping high over extra cover for another maximum.
The morning had seen Leicestershire make an encouraging start after Lancashire resumed on their overnight score of 96-3, Chris Wright finding the inside edge of Rob Jones' bat and seeing the ball loop from the batsman's front pad high into leg side, where George Rhodes, running in from short midwicket, took a comfortable catch.
Lancashire captain Dave Vilas was joined by Croft and the two experienced batsmen dug in. Leicestershire's bowlers knew they had to be patient on a slow, placid track, though Vilas did give one chance, clipping a delivery from left-arm seamer Dieter Klein low down the leg-side, but wicket-keeper Harry Swindells, diving to his left, could not hang on.
It was beginning to look as though Vilas and Croft could match or exceed their first innings partnership of 130 until the shortly before lunch, when the South African tried to steer a wide delivery from left-arm spinner Callum Parkinson through point, only to bottom edge the ball into his stumps.
If that was fortuitous for Parkinson, his next wicket was anything but, George Balderson going back to a delivery which spun sharply back into the left-hander's pads to dismiss him leg before wicket.
Croft remained immoveable, but the loss of Danny Lamb, leg before to a full delivery from Ben Mike, lifted Leicestershire spirits as they went in to tea with 32 overs remaining in the match.
Mike made it two in two balls by immediately producing a beauty to find the edge of Bailey's bat, Swindells taking a brilliant one-handed catch to his right.
Hartley fought hard before being leg before on the back pad to an Ackermann delivery which turned, and Ed Moulton's dismissal left the Foxes a target of almost nine runs an over.
The Foxes then managed to chase down their target and attention for Lancashire turns to Saturday's clash with Durham at Emirates Riverside.